Presidential girlfriend Grace Lee is far luckier than private sector workers, for President Benigno Aquino has surprises for the former but no gifts for the latter on Labor Day. But this is not due to a personal defect on the part of PNoy but a systemic defect of the government. The government is captive to a defective economic model called globalization which sacrifices workers needs to the interests of foreign investors and local capitalists.
From “Erap para sa Mahirap” to “Kayo ang boss ko,” Malacanang’s spinmeisters have concocted different kinds of packaging to the same product—a regime of suppression of workers wages and labor rights for the sake of an illusory development anchored on foreign investments and global competitiveness.
This is confirmed by the recently released “Global Wage Report 2010” of the ILO which notes that workers in the Philippines are among the lowest paid in the world and wages are falling still. Low wages particularly afflicts women workers and even those with high educational attainment. But we really do not need the ILO to confirm the bitter reality felt by Filipino workers—low wages, few benefits, contractual jobs, mass unemployment and repression of unions despite GNP growth.
The imperative to unite and fight for the dignity of workers is the spark for the formation of Nagkaisa which embraces the country’s major labor centers and groups for the first time since the 1980’s. The unity forged among some 40 labor organizations to advance the struggle for regular jobs, wage hike, low cost of electricity and oil, among others as immediate concerns together with long-term demands on policy shift is a key component of the renewal and revival of the labor movement. A strong militant labor movement is the foundation for the working class to regain its place as the tribune of the people and vanguard of social change.
In the entire world, May Day this year will be commemorated in mass protests if not in general strikes. May 1st is a day to express the resistance of the 99% to the greed of the 1%. The convergence of the youth-led Occupy movement with the traditional labor movement will radicalize and strengthen both. In the US, the Occupy movement is calling for a general strike, meaning “no work, no school, no shopping, no banking, and no trading.” The call has reverberated in hundreds of cities across the globe and a worldwide disruption of the status quo is the agenda.
The struggle of PALEA against contractualization and of Tucuma Federation against demolition is part of the global rebellion of the 99% against the 1%. In the midst of such life-and-death battles for workers welfare and rights, the unity in action of Nagkaisa will be tested and forged. The historic Labor Day rally by Nagkaisa in Mendiola and in other cities in Visayas and Mindanao is an important first step on the long journey to recover the dignity of workers, revive the labor movement and ultimately reform Philippine society.